On the morning of June 14, 2022, a new mural was unveiled above the entrance to Leavitt’s Country Bakery in the small town of Conway, New Hampshire (pop: 9,822). Inspired by the nearby White Mountains, the mural features a mountain range—of pastries. The whimsical idea and style was a perfect fit for the small-town bakery, and certainly a step up from the drab wooden façade that preceded it.
The mural had been painted by three local high school students as a project for their art class, and the unveiling was attended by many students and community members, including the local press.
“There were a lot of late afternoons,” said Olivia Benish, the art teacher who oversaw the project. “I wanted to give my top students a project, and they really did a great job.”
The project took 80 hours for the students to complete, which they put in over the span of five weeks.
“I’ve never done such a big piece of art before. So it’s pretty exciting,” said Morgan Carr, one of the artists.
Leavitt’s’ owner Sean Young was also pleased with the mural, and he was especially proud that he was able to partner with the high school on the project.
“We thought it would be a fun project for the kids and good for the community,” said Young. “Hopefully this will be an annual project, as we have other sides to the building.”
Unfortunately, this isn’t the end of the story. A week later a town official showed up to the bakery and informed Young that the mural violated a local zoning ordinance which places a limit on the allowable size of store signs. According to the town, the Leavitt’s building can’t have a sign more than 22 square feet. The mural, being 91 square feet, far exceeds that. Thus, according to officials, the mural must come down.
It’s worth noting that Conway has many large murals, all of which the town allows. So what’s different about this one? According to officials, this mural counts as a “sign” because it depicts the kinds of things the store sells, namely pastries. In other words, if the mural had depicted real mountains—or anything else for that matter—there would be no problem.
There would also be no problem if this exact same mural were displayed somewhere else. In fact, town officials told Young that if he moved the mural to the farm stand next to the bakery—which is on the same lot—then it could stay up because the farm stand doesn’t sell baked goods.
Despite immense public backlash, the town has put its foot down and is insisting the mural be removed or changed. Near the end of 2022 they threatened Young with enforcement proceedings. If he doesn’t remove or paint over the sign, he could face criminal charges and fines of $275 per day.